780km (485 miles) NE of Bangkok; 180km (112 miles) NE of Chiang Mai
Chiang Rai is Thailand's northernmost province. The Mekong River makes its borders with Laos to the east and Myanmar to the west. The smaller yet scenic Mae Kok River, which supports many hill-tribe villages along its banks, flows right through the provincial capital of the same name.
Chiang Rai City lies some 565m (1,854 ft.) above sea level in a wide fertile valley, and its cool refreshing climate, tree-lined riverbanks, and popular but more subdued Night Market lure travelers weary of traffic congestion and pollution in Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai also has some good accommodations choices, and many travelers use the city as a base for trekking and trips to Chiang Saen and the Golden Triangle.
Just over 100km (62 miles) north of Chiang Mai on the way to Chiang Rai, look for little Suanthip Vana Resort (49 Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai Rd., Tambon Takok; tel. 05372-4226; www.suanthipresort.com), a semiluxe property with cool honeymoon bungalows that overlook a river valley. Because the journey from Chiang Mai takes only 3 hours, it is possible to see Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle in a day trip, but you'll need to get an early start and allot a very full day, spent mostly in a vehicle.